The Oyster in the Room

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A West Marin friend tells a story about the repairman who arrived at her home and asked where she stood on the Drakes Bay oyster feud. "I told him," she says, "that if I explained my position, he wouldn't repair my refrigerator."

As a frequent visitor to West Marin, I've heard citizens tell stories in which the oyster and the wilderness figure as the metaphorical elephants in the big room we call the outdoors. Everyone knows they're there, no one wants to acknowledge them. I suppose Marinites might tell me to butt out because I'm a visitor, but two-and-a-half million visitors like me flock to Drakes Bay and its environs annually. We care about the oyster and its habitat as much as locals whose livelihood is dependent on Point Reyes National Seashore.

As a compassionate outsider, I suggest that now is the time to create a genuine dialogue between citizens on all sides of the oyster/wilderness issue. The father of environmentalism, Henry David Thoreau would encourage robust discussion. Nearly everyone in West Marin loves Thoreau and nearly everyone boasts, "I'm an environmentalist."

The Marin Agricultural Land Trust spent years building alliances between environmentalists and agriculturalists. Now they're in shambles. If Marinites don't begin to reconnect and rebuild alliances they might miss the big eco-battles facing the whole planet.

Get beyond bickering, please. The clock is ticking, I hope that Marin citizens will talk about the elephants in the room and heal the social rifts that parallel the San Andreas Fault and that have caused as much psychic damage as any earthquake.  
With a Perspective, I'm Jonah Raskin.


Jonah Raskin is a professor emeritus at Sonoma State University in Santa Rosa.